The outer edge of Hurricane Florence began buffeting the Carolinas with wind and rain on Thursday as forecasters warned the monster storm would trigger life-threatening flooding as it assaults the U.S. east coast.
North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities. A tattered American flag seen flying on a live surf camera at Frying Pan Tower in North Carolina is evidence of the strong wind gusts pounding the coast.
Hurricane force winds are extending outwards from the centre of the storm by 80 miles.
Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington. "Please keep that in mind", and consider leaving soon, Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said midmorning Thursday.
Cooper says officials are also in the process of opening more shelters because demand is expected to continue to increase.
As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph.
"We could be talking about 6 to potentially 9 feet of storm surge".
Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.
North Carolina will likely see eight months' worth of rain in two to three days, said National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear in a video briefing. This is expected to cause "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding".
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Much of the Carolinas coast has been under a daylong tornado watch. The center says that storm is about 1,040 miles (1,670) kilometers west-southwest of the Azores and no coastal watches or warnings are in effect.
"Sometime Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning", Goldstein said.
"But once we get to that nine foot range this is an absolute life threatening scenario", she said.
Holly Waters, a retired special education teacher from Wilmington, said she was happy to have a place to go to relax before the storm worsened.
Authorities in New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people that dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people had to be rescued from floods.
The storm was a risky Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday.
So far, a state of emergency has been declared in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland and Washington DC. It's an evacuation 'encouragement, ' " said Hannah Moldenhauer, a spokeswoman for Berkeley County, South Carolina, which is under mandatory evacuation.
Will Epperson, 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but changed their minds due to its ferocity. According to Fire Chief Glen Rogers, there are in fact only 12 people left on the beach to sit out the storm.
One electricity company fears that three-quarters of its four million customers will lose power as a result of the storm, and may not be reconnected for weeks.